Commissioners approve two water pipelines for Eastern Summit County
The pipelines will replace the open-ditch irrigation system
For more than a century, ranchers and farmers in Eastern Summit County have used open-ditch irrigation systems for outdoor watering and livestock. But, some of the rushing waters in North and South Summit will soon stop.
Last week, the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission unanimously approved two conditional use permits for the proposed East Wanship and Lower Marion Water Pipelines with a 4-0 vote. Commissioners Tonja Hanson and Sean Wharton were not present and former commissioner Doug Clyde’s seat remains vacant.
More than 40 people attended the meeting and public hearing on the issue on Thursday, Feb. 2. Most testified that they were unaware of the project and failed to receive proper notification the impacts of construction on their property. Another claimed it is impractical and “changes the entire makeup of the area,” including natural springs and aquifers.
Gary Francis, who lives in Oakley and described himself as a 40-year resident, said he is disappointed with the communication about the project. He said he contacted the county about the grading work that was being done and was “amazed when they said we don’t know anything about this.”
“Everyone in Oakley and the Kamas Valley should be involved in the discussion about the historic significance of these ditches,” Francis said. “As I read the assessment it seems like the ditch is being looked at as a water entity unto itself, but obviously it is one important part of the valley’s hydrology.”
The East Wanship Pipeline will cross approximately 34 parcels owned by 21 land owners. The pipelines proposed paths follow the existing East Wanship Irrigation Canal along East Wanship Road and Old Lincoln Highway. It will end near the Summit County Public Works Facility building, according to a Summit County staff report. It will be 16 inches in diameter.
The Lower Marion Pipeline will affect 38 different land owners as it crosses portions of State Road 32, Pinion Lane and the Weber/Provo River Diversion Canal. It will be 26 inches in diameter.
The distribution pipelines will be placed in existing open-water irrigation ditches, according to Sean Lewis, a Summit County planner. He said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is funding both cost-sharing projects as part of their WaterSMART program.
“It does change the method of irrigation and it does allow for metering, whereas before you had a ditch and water rights,” Lewis said. “The idea is you don’t have to worry about head gates and the guy in front of you releasing the water on time. It is more equitable for everyone.”
Lewis said construction on the East Wanship Pipeline won’t start until an environmental study is complete. He said the environmental impacts are “give and take.”
“They are saving more water by piping it, but you are losing that vegetation that surrounds the ditch,” Lewis said.
Few comments were made during the meeting about the East Wanship Pipeline. Lewis said easements were received from all of the affected property owners.
However, several easements from residents affected in South Summit are still under review. Lewis told commissioners staff considered the permit application incomplete and recommended not taking any action.
“There are a lot of questions surrounding the pipeline in Oakley: How deep will it go, what’s the point, how will it affect my land? It is a historic aspect of our valley,” said Kendall “Tiny” Woolstenhulme, an Oakley City Councilor and property owner.
Commission Chair Chris Ure said the commission could not legally deny either application, adding “we did not have the authority.” Ure said the request is an approved use under the East Side Development Code. He said he supported the project.
“I thought it was the best thing they could have done when they are losing 38 percent of their water to seepage. That’s the bottom line,” Ure said. “Right now, with the way it was working, they were only able to irrigate when it was high-water runoff and they were done by the middle of July. Now with this they will be able to go to the first of September.”
A former Summit County victim advocate who was facing a felony count of misusing public money pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge in a deal with prosecutors.